Do What You Love: Ice Cream Man

What if your office were connected to an ice cream factory? Most likely, the daily grind would seem a little sweeter.

To test this theory, BusinessNewsDaily sat down with Michael Emanuele, vice president of Mr. Green Tea Ice Cream Company, a family-owned business specializing in desserts in exotic flavors like green tea, red bean, ginger and luscious mango.

Mr. Green Tea was founded in the 1960s in Brooklyn, N.Y., by Emanuele's grandfather, Santo Emanuele. The company has since relocated across the Raritan Bay to Keyport, N.J., but its mission — to deliver gourmet, naturally made products to its customers — hasn't changed.

BusinessNewsDaily: Explain what you do for a living.

Michael Emanuele: As the vice president of the company and the head of retail, my job consists of managing all the products, like ice cream pints, that we sell to grocery stores. That's includes everything from developing new flavors to designing packaging.

And since we're trying to grow the business, everyone has to wear a lot of hats. So I also help out with manufacturing, keeping the website up to date, and when there's something wrong with the truck, I'm a mechanic, too.

BND: How did you end up doing this for a living?

M.E.: It's a family business; it's been in the family for 50 years. My grandfather started it in the 1960s, and my father took over the business when he was in his fifties.

When I first started with the company, I was cleaning the bathrooms and driving the trucks —and I just worked my way up.

BND: What was the crucial decision that led you to this place?

M.E.: When my father took over the company, I was getting a degree in engineering from Villanova. After school, I worked for the Navy for two years in a cubicle. I hated it.

Joining the family business seemed like a great place to go from there.

And what led me to my current role was my idea to do retail. Two or three years ago, we weren't selling pints. No one had ever heard of us.

We just started selling our products in grocery stores 18 months ago. Right now, 300 stores in the tristate area, along with 5,500 restaurants and other distributors, carry our pints. By the end of the year, we hope to be in thousands of stores nationwide.

BND: What did you want to be when you grew up?

M.E.: Cars have always been my passion. That's what led me to mechanical engineering —and I still love that. But I also understand that sometimes there has to be a disconnect between what you do for a living and what you're really passionate about.

However, I am passionate about designing stuff, and I get to do that a lot in this business. There's a lot of science and engineering behind ice cream and the machines that make it.

My father and I design the production lines to bring in the proper machinery, manufacturing and cooling equipment.

BND: Why do you love your job?

M.E.: The reason why I love my job, apart from the free ice cream, is that there are no ceilings — no caps at all.

And along with the potential for growth is the fact that the successes and failures of this company are stipulated, in part, by my decisions. How hard I work and the strength of my decisions are directly proportional to my success.

BND: What's the biggest misconception about what you do?

M.E.: I think there's a misconception about our company as a whole, which is that we're a startup. We're not a startup. Some people also think we're a scoop shop. We're not that either.

We're a full-fledged manufacturing company, and we might be new to retail, but we're not new to business. We're older than Ben and Jerry's. We've been around as long as Häagen-Dazs.

Because our brand isn't well-known yet, people sometimes think we're a startup or that we're not serious. We're serious.

BND: If you didn't do your job, whose job would you like to have, and why?

M.E.: I'd be a Formula 1 driver. Like I said, I love cars.

BND: Do you think having a job you love makes you a better person in other areas of your life?

M.E.: I think it does. I'm happier. Getting up and enjoying what I do is one less thing to worry about.

I also think that having a job like this is a little like being a professional baseball player: There are a lot of times when I swing and miss.

In fact, I might fail way more often than I succeed. But, like a pro ball player, if I connect enough times, I still have the opportunity to make it to the Hall of Fame. And that opportunity means everything.

BND: What's your best advice to those trying to live out their career dreams?

M.E.: If you're an entrepreneur, startup or just trying to grow your business, you should know that, in the beginning, it's you. It's just you.

You could have a great idea and a lot of capital, but you can't just hire a bunch of people and expect to succeed. You have to learn how to do things on your own.

BND: What's your idea of the perfect retirement?

M.E.: I don't know if there is retirement in this country anymore. But let's say I'm wrong, and retirement is here to stay. I'd move to Tuscany and drive Ferraris all day.

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